Reactions Mixed to Trump's Jerusalem Declaration

By Chabin, Michele | The Christian Century, January 3, 2018 | Go to article overview

Reactions Mixed to Trump's Jerusalem Declaration


Chabin, Michele, The Christian Century


A vihu Mizrachi Minagen's family has run a men's shoe store in the heart of West Jerusalem for 86 years--17 years longer than Israel has been a country.

He applauded U.S. president Donald Trump for declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and vowing to relocate the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

"It strengthens Jews' historical, cultural, and religious claims to Jerusalem," Minagen said. "The roots of the Jewish people are right here ... the Western Wall, the Temple Mount. I'm glad the American president acknowledges this."

That acknowledgment, which Trump delivered in a speech from the White House in early December, has spurred a wave of speculation about its political and religious ramifications.

Ahmed Muami, a Muslim carpenter from East Jerusalem, expressed fears that the Israeli government will try to wrest control of Haram al-Sharif--what Jews call the Temple Mount, which is also a holy site for Muslims--away from the Jordanian Muslim trust that administers it.

"Now that America says that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, who will try to stop Israel from doing this?" he asked.

Last year there was a wave of violence in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, amid rumors that Israel was taking steps to destroy the mosque on the hill of Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.

Trump called the planned relocation of the U.S. embassy "a long overdue step to advance the peace process." Many world leaders have said the move would make it harder to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

The United States has never before recognized either Israeli or Palestinian sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, which the United Nations envisioned as an international city. After Arab armies attacked the fledgling Jewish state in 1948, Israel seized control over West Jerusalem while Jordan seized control over East Jerusalem. After the 1967 war, Israel extended its control over East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

To many Jews in Israel, the declaration recognizes what has been true for thousands of years. President Reuven Rivlin called Trump's speech "a landmark in the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to our land, and a milestone on our road to peace--peace for all the residents of Jerusalem, and the whole region."

The response was decidedly negative from the 19 percent of Israel's population who are Muslim, Christian, Druze, or part of another minority religion. Thabet Abu Rass, a Muslim who is co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, an organization striving for Arab and Jewish equality in Israeli society, called the announcement "a historic mistake."

"Jerusalem isn't just a religious city," he said. "It is a symbol of statehood for Palestinians. This move will only inflame Arab-Jewish relations."

In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians held demonstrations against the declaration. Hamas, the political group in charge of the Gaza Strip, which the United States has classified a terrorist organization, said the declaration would be "a blatant aggression against the holy city. …

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